The French and Indian War (1754–63) established British dominance over France in North America but sowed sufficient local discontent that some colonists began to think the unthinkable: revolution.
Borneman’s third venture into popular history (1812: The War That Forged a Nation, 2004, etc.), like its predecessors, evinces much reading and a thorough understanding of the people, the places (many of which he visited) and the events. Evident, too, is a sort of narrative ebullience often lacking from more academic accounts (Borneman is a fan of the exclamation mark). And very helpful, indeed, are the many maps distributed throughout, plus a chronology and annotated cast of characters. The author begins in 1748 with a status report: England, France and Spain are competitors in North America; conflict is inevitable. Borneman argues that the English strategy (building settlements, encouraging immigration) was superior to the French (claiming territory, doing little to secure it), but it took nine years of bloodshed, here and elsewhere, to resolve it. (He notes that the conflict could have been called World War I.) Borneman is at his best elucidating battle strategies (especially the pivotal encounter at Quebec) and bringing to life the personalities of some of those famous names—Washington, Montcalm, Wolfe, Howe, Braddock, Pontiac and others who strode that particular stage. He spends considerable time with the famed Robert Rogers (and his fabled rangers), giving credit where it’s due but also peeling away layers of legend and chronicling the man’s weaknesses. The author also gives much (deserved) attention to the ambitious William Pitt, who recognized more than any other the significance of what was happening across the Atlantic. Like many other accounts, though, Borneman focuses on the English participants. We don’t learn enough about what the French were doing and thinking; he doesn’t tell us enough about the culture of the various Indian nations involved, though he does offer some sobering details about Indian unpredictability and martial ferocity.
Adds color and animation to a familiar but faded photograph.